5 Ways Sina Weibo Differentiates Itself From Twitter

As some of you might already be aware, China has a tendency of copying working models in the western technology sector. They have QQ (Formerlly known as OICQ) for ICQ, they have 人人(renren) for Facebook, and even 百度(Baidu) for Google. Don’t be mistaken and think that these are on the caliber of knockoff Giorgio Armani suits that can be purchased for a mere fraction of their authentic counterparts. These are technology giants in their own right and forces to be reckoned with.

So of course with popularity of Twitter, the Chinese could not let the opportunity go to waste. Executed by the internet media giant Sina, borned 新浪微博(Sina Weibo). Sina has been historically successful from its portal and blogging properties, and there are actually a few things that it does arguably better than Twitter that evolves it to a different if not better product.

Content capacity

Sina Weibo has a familiar limit on 140 characters alike Twitter does. 140 characters in English is enough for a short article title, but in Chinese it allows for a title and ample space for the expression of an opinion or thought. Something that happens often on Twitter is people would send out a tweet with an article title, and send proceeding tweets with their thoughts and opinions. Their followers may reply to and retweet different tweets causing a broken strand of conversation. People also often miss information that may interest them because they’re broken into pieces intertwined with others talking about a topic that is completely irrelevant.

This example isn’t as drastic as some of the things that manifest in practical use but still illustrate the problem. AP tweets twice about the same thing and is intertwined with posts that have nothing to do with the subject of interest.

In Weibo’s case, the post is much longer and explains the situation in just the right amount of detail

Promoting conversation

While Twitter does a pretty good job to promote people to create content and conversations around topics of interest and has done an amazing job to promote freedom of speech in areas of the world where that is limited. Weibo goes a step beyond that to promote the conversation between users. Content that you create is differentiated into comments and posts. Comments are not blasted to your followers and are collectively viewable under the original post. Your followers will be able to see your post but post can still reference an existing post acting as a reply of sorts.

I know that’s quite a bit to take in so I will explain why I think this is so great for conversation.

If you just want to comment on something, you will not annoy all your followers to no end. This way you’re actually even more incentivized to say what’s on your mind. Only people who genuinely have interest will see it.

And because all comments are collected within the original post in question, it becomes a hub of conversation for people interested in the subject.

Content curation

Sina’s existing staff of editors are able to create and curate a stream of posts acting as the aforementioned hubs of conversation. You won’t have an issue of logging into Twitter and not sure if you should follow Reuters, AP or CNN for your breaking news and then end up getting the same pieces of news three times. You can follow the one single definitive news point and then selectively follow the taste makers of the network. Because they can create posts and reference another post, they don’t have to duplicate efforts and first educate you on the news article. They can simply express an opinion, thought, or even update to the topic and the content becomes much more enjoyable to consume.

Experience consistency

Twitter and Weibo both support third party clients to access its API. Twitter recently has moved towards closing its doors for apps that directly replace the official Twitter experience. Although they’ve taken a ton of flack for that move, I understand it completely. If I use Facebook, I download the Facebook app. If I use Instagram, I download the Instagram app. Twitter needs a Twitter app instead of a fragmented, uncontrolled, and unslick experience. Although Weibo allows third party clients, most use the official client. Why? Because Sina actually releases new features to its platform on a regular basis (Recently they allowed multiple images to be uploaded to a single post). With the app store acceptance wait times, third party clients are always behind the official client. Users are going to want to use whichever client is the most beautiful and featureful. And that, just happens to be the official client.

The same cannot be said about the Twitter official client, iOS or otherwise.

First class images

A picture is worth a thousand words. We are living in a very visual and attention deficient world. Twitter capitalizes on this with its content broken into smaller pieces but does not capture the value of visual cues. When you’re scrolling past your hundreds of missed tweets, it’s a great way to see visual bits that catch your eyes first. Rich media objects like this seem like an after thought and almost feel rejected by Twitter, but are considered first class citizens that sit right next to your text on Weibo